Sunday, October 22, 2000

Germany 2000

wx is perfect for travel. route to ATL is easy. Check in at counter. told expect call at 1315 probably before - the word is that all will go! TO from ATL 1542 land in RMN 7:45 later. Hertz in Rhein-Main is DISASTER.

Got DM from ATM - lots of fun. In Aschaffenburg got directions from a German woman who told an English woman who had just got here, and didn't know where anything was, who told Japanese woman who spoke English porly but knew the town. Man tries to help who speaks good english but with too strong German accent.

Good pretzel. Then went to a museum - I fell asleep every 2 minutes - kept catching myself as I would start to fall - back to hotel - sleep 3 hr - back on street. pizza with tables on ceiling. LOTS of cigarrette smoke! Stayed one night 2000.0925 for 144DN (73.63Euro)

Tomorrow, Rothenburg!


After the great castles comes a picture from the Zugspitze. Nine thousand, six hundred feet above sea level, and miles above the rest of the world. Here, where the Tyrolean and Bavarian Alps meet, you stand and gaze across glaciers and eternal snows and look across Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Italy. Shoulder to shoulder you now stand with the great peaks of the planet which rise tier upon tier in saw-toothed splendor. You gaze at these rocky pinnacles and realize that here is the breathless hatchery of architectural inspiration which brought forth the great cathedrals that rise all over Europe.

Above your head ravens wheel in circles, floating in the icy wind, resembling those saints and angels that decorate the domes of splended cathedrals far below. The raven's feet, like those of those floating saints, also descend and daintily dangle in saintly respect, perhaps, for the memory of gravity. Later you will leave the Zugzpitze, but no matter how far you go its memories will go with you.

© John Womack, 2006, All Rights Reserved.


Imagine that you are in an old museum somewhere in southern Germany. It is late in the day and you come back again to a painting you can’t get out of your mind. The little city it depicts is so real that you feel you could reach out an touch the buildings. Reluctantly your hand finally reaches toward the painting to feel its texture at least, and instead you reach INTO the city! Stunned, you glance back and forth in the museum - no one is watching!

Quickly you step through the frame and walk free on narrow cobblestone streets through air filled with the smell of fresh bread, frying onions and cooking bratwurst. You find yourself wandering through cloistered archways, listening to the Tauber River flowing below the village as it has for thousands of years, and hear music that faintly comes from the town square which is never more than a few blocks away.

The sidewalks sometimes lead along a great rock wall, sometimes beside ancient stables or sometimes by houses and gardens or great medieval gates But they all eventually lead into the center of Rothenberg, a square which lies open in front of its great cathedral.

An old man might stand here in the evening sun, playing an accordion in front of the RatsStube Cafe, or a woman with a violin perhaps or maybe a couple or a small group, but will they invariably play haunting music which will float across the square and lead you to dance down those ancient streets with unfocused eyes through a world we all thought was forever gone. You become transformed from a modern tourist walking through a medieval city into a medieval person at home in a familiar place where you know you really belong. Everywhere you go you are surrounded by the smell of good food and the sound of ancient music, and your soul knows it has finally come home.

Toured Aschaffenburg museum & castle in the morning after great bkfast. <2 hr to Rothenburg. Late lunch - bratwurst me, salad JPW. Walk town. Climb tower. To Park with flutist playing. Good supper beef tips me, trout JPW. Fish 20 DM, beef 30 DM, 2 beers 7.6 DM 2 glasses water 10 DM. Walk with Night Watchman - good.

©John Womack, 2006. All rights reserved.


Neuschwanstein is a huge place - a small universe, complete to itself. To a photographer it is a special problem because it is a brilliant light machine that captures and hurls light from its walls and parapets like Thor flinging thunderbolts down out of heaven. A few knowledgeable photographers could be seen scratching their heads and twisting their lenses; other people fired away with point-and-shoots, their tiny flash bulbs winking at the great white palace.
I will not insult its original owner, Crazy Ludwig, by comparing his castle with that counterfeit thing in Orlando. Neuschwanstein's best view is not the view OF the castle - no, Prince Ludwig was not that crazy - it is the view FROM his castle.

Schloß Hohenschwangau, where Ludwig grew up, in many ways was more remarkable and a lot more photogenic, but it is only a castle. A good place to dream perhaps; but Neuschwanstein is a palace beyond all dreams.

© John Womack, 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Germany's Romantic Road

Augsburg is alive and electric, an exciting picture of a modern city. Here we were served an Italian meal of spicy penné on sidewalk tables by the Al Pachino Cafe, where the waiters wear aprons which read in English "Tip is not the name of a town in China!". The docent in the museum across the street pointed out that they remained open in the winter when temperatures reached "twenty degrees below zero!" and they have no heat. (-20°C is about -4°F; still cold!). And once upon a time, a long, long time ago, the richest man in the world lived here. He was a Fugger, named Jacob Fugger, and if he were alive still today, and his fortune was still intact. he would still be the richest Fugger in the world .

Kaufbeuren is a small village in southern Bavaria. Here is a picture of a perfect German Inn: a gasthof from the years that used to be - a pub of exuberance filled again each night anew with lore and great tales of fun and laughter and music - Michael Martin's Gasthof Engel is not far from Munchen, and from the private balcony in your room under the great horse-chestnut tree, you will find a faraway view of the Alps. The main reason to stop here however, is a fabulous and incredible spaetzel made with that special cheese that comes only from Bavaria, all that with breaded and fried pork and served with bread and beer that America will never know.

© John Womack, All Rights Reserved

Germany's Autobahn

The autobahn is a perfect picture of speed. There hangs on a wall in my mind a memory sketch of our Renault doing 145 (about 97 mph) and being rocked by the bow waves of Mercedes, BMW's, Porches, Audi's and others as they passed by on our left.
The double lane roads are a wonder too; partly because every road in Germany has at least three lanes, regardless of how many are painted there. If there are only two lanes on the road, you should always be prepared to see a car pass the car that is coming toward you, everybody justs moves over a little to let the passing car slip through. Actually, it all works out easier than trying to drive in Asheville on Friday evening.